★★★★ | Westend Fest, The Actors’ Church
The West End was treated last Sunday evening to not one but two glittering charity fundraisers. I opted to visit the always-fun WestEnd Fest, held at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden over the larger and more-publicised West End Unites event at the Lyric.
With a line-up consisting of many of the West End’s best-loved names, WestEnd Fest is an evening of song, dance and lots of laughter organised by actress Sabrina Aloueche and musician Richard Parnell Page. This show’s theme, “Songs you love… BUT SHOULDN’T!” paved the way for these West-Enders to belt out some of their favourite pop tunes.
I was struck, initially, by just how perfect a venue St Paul’s Church is for a celebration of all that the West End has to offer. This peaceful haven, in the very heart of Covent Garden, is known as The Actors’ Church, and is a perfect setting for the evening of heavenly pleasures we witnessed.
David Ribi and Rosie Ladkin opened the show with a tribute to that guiltiest of pleasures, High School Musical. The evening continued in much the same vein, with songs from various musicals including Frozen, The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book and Love Never Dies, as well as tributes to Maria Mackee, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Justin Timberlake, and Belinda Carlisle with Justin Bieber (an unlikely pairing, admittedly, but one that Rob Houchen somehow made work in his inventive and original arrangement).
David Ribi also closed the evening as part of WestEnd Fest’s very own boyband, Wrong Direction. Known for being a member of top One Direction tribute act Only One Direction as well as his numerous acting and presenting credits, he was perfectly at home in such an environment and this shone through in his performance.
The performers were simply too numerous to critique each one, but each sang to their strengths, and clearly enjoyed the opportunity to perform their best-loved guilty pleasures. Extra-special mentions, however, must be given to Rebecca Caine, Aaron Sidwell, Tori Allen Martin, Lauren Samuels, Kieran Brown and WestEnd Fest’s co-founder, Sabrina Aloueche for making my spine tingle with their outstanding performances.
The evening also showcased a selection of songs from two new musicals which are both worth watching out for. ‘The Mill on The Floss’ is a catchy production of George Eliot’s tragic story of the battle between morality and desire; while ‘Twenty Seven’ is a new story with a superbly emotional score, performed with gusto by the supremely talented Ross William Wild and other members of its excellent cast.
WestEnd Fest is a bi-annual fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and CRY UK, a children’s cardiac arrest charity. Based on the quality of last Sunday’s show, I urge you to buy tickets as soon as the next one is announced.
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